When we think about school, the first image that often pops to mind is of students in classrooms.
We were all kids once. So, it’s natural that we would think this way.
While academics are the bedrock of any successful school system, the experiences of students and parents extend beyond the four walls of the classroom. In fact, they happen anywhere and everywhere, from the front office to the living room.
As competition for students heats up, the non-academic side of school is often overlooked. For instance, how schools listen to and communicate with parents and students often adds up to a messy patchwork of email, social media, and weeknight meetings.
In an age of choice and with the risk of declining enrollment, this is not a recipe for success. One negative experience is all it takes for parents to pull up stakes and enroll their child in another school.
I spent almost a decade in online learning and virtual charter schools, and I saw this firsthand.
At one point or another, we’ve all witnessed the power of parent engagement to move the needle on student and school performance. When parents nurture personal relationships with their child’s teachers and principal, the child benefits from a richer classroom experience. Familiarity in an educational setting breeds not contempt, but achievement.
None of this is easy, of course. You can’t flip a switch and expect a culture to take hold in your schools. You need buy in—at every level of the system. Every department head, principal, teacher, and employee needs to believe in the importance of what you are trying to accomplish and see themselves as integral to the process.
Think of it like training for a marathon. You don’t just decide one day to run. It takes commitment and discipline and consistency. You must train and build stamina and work to succeed.
Listen. Learn. Lead.
At K12 Insight, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to help schools build stronger relationships with families and staff. For us, the path to success boils down to three simple words: listen, learn, and lead.
Listen to your school community
If community members and parents want to reach you, they’ve got plenty of ways to do it. They can call, they can email, they can log on to social media, they can walk right up to the front door if they want.
Keeping track of all these different entry points is incredibly difficult, but necessary. If you miss even one conversation, you run the risk of irreparably damaging the relationship.
With Let’s Talk!, K12 Insight has sought to eliminate gaps by giving school leaders a tool to listen 24/7, across all communication channels, and funnel it into one place to respond, track, and analyze trends across the community. They can see every conversation; collaborate to provide stronger, more timely, responses; and use data to make more informed decisions on behalf of students and families.
Learn from what you know
Our roots are in school research. In fact, we started as a survey company, and now we provide a wide array of survey and research services to districts and their boards. So, we’re big believers in the power of data—provided school leaders have the tools to effectively use it. We built our Let’s Talk! dashboard to help school leaders hone in on critical information, such as how long it takes them to respond to concerns, what topics or issues are important to the community, and how parents and families feel about the level of service they receive from their schools. Taken together, this information helps school leaders improve both communication and the overall quality of the school experience—be it in the classroom or elsewhere in the district.
Lead with extreme confidence
When everyone in your school district starts to really understand the benefits of strong community engagement and customer experience, your community starts to see your schools as proactive, not reactive. Suddenly, you have the power to track issues and address them before they mushroom up. And you can plan initiatives, programs, and budgets based on actual needs and wants. All of this gives you the power to make stronger decisions, build trusted relationships, and create buy-in for a brighter future.
Are you interested in learning more about how our three-step approach can help you build trust with parents and students? Are you looking to improve the customer experience in your school or district? Let’s Talk!